An International Education

Posted: Tuesday, November 08, 2005


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  One of the workstations being used by a student

Class gathers for music lessons at the Kenai Montessori School

Over 4 years ago, Rachel Pugh decided that the Kenai area needed a true and authentic pre elementary program. After receiving her Montessori Certification in 2003, Rachel opened the first Montessori School in Kenai in the same manner that most Montessori schools originated; she converted the entire first floor of her home into a school. There was once even a Montessori school in the basement of the White House during President Wilson’s term in office. Over the past 3 years the success and popularity of Kenai Montessori School outgrew Rachel’s home and last May she expanded to a much larger facility in downtown Kenai located at 220 Main Street Loop across from the fire department.

What is Montessori? Rachel explains that the aim of Montessori education is to foster competent, responsible, adaptive citizens who are lifelong learners and problem solvers. Learning occurs in an inquiring, cooperative, nurturing atmosphere. Students learn by manipulating materials and interacting with others.


One of the workstations being used by a student

The Montessori philosophy recognizes that children have a natural drive that inspires them to reach their potential. Their minds are like fertile fields, and their inherent love of learning is stimulated when they are given opportunities to engage in meaningful activities with the proper balance of autonomy and guidance from specially trained teachers. Montessori children develop skills of concentration, motivation and self discipline. Within this framework, each child progresses at his own pace and rhythm, according to his individual capabilities, and is inspired to learn with wonder and confidence.

When it comes to education, Rachel and Robert Pugh of Kenai Montessori School have chosen a career with rewards. As operators and owners, Rachel and Robert Pugh have been working every day and night establishing a World Class Montessori School. As concerned parents themselves the Pugh’s felt it was time the families of Kenai had a better alternative for young children than just a day care environment. “Our school is modeled after other Montessori schools all around the world. There are Montessori schools on every continent except Antarctica. We even have sister schools in 5 different countries that we share cultural exchange items with. Our main focuses are foreign language & culture, music appreciation, the arts, and Peace.” said Rachel.

When asked if anyone could use the “Montessori” name, Rachel stated “Despite the impression many parents hold, the name Montessori refers to a method and philosophy, and it is neither a name protected by copyright nor a central licensing or franchising program. In many parts of the world, anyone could, in theory, open a school and call it Montessori with no actual knowledge of how an authentic program is organized or run. When this happens, it is both disturbing and embarrassing for those of us who know the difference. Many of these schools fail but often not before they harm the public’s perception of the integrity and effectiveness of Montessori as a whole.”

The Montessori philosophy as we know, was started in 1907, however, most true Montessorians believe that what is known as the Montessori Method has been around since the beginning of mankind.

Kenai Montessori strictly adheres to International Montessori methods and standards without substituting any other forms of traditional education. They are currently the only State Certified Pre-Elementary School on the Kenai Peninsula that offers programs for children 3-6 years old. The school has certified Montessori teachers with college degrees, and is staffed with 5 full time Montessori teachers and 4 part time specialty teachers for daily Yoga, piano, guitar, violin, and flute lessons. There are recitals and performances as well as a cap and gown graduation ceremony. They are also the only school that serves all organic meals and snacks.

Kenai Montessori is a member of the International Montessori Council (IMC), The American Montessori Society (AMS) and the founding member of the Alaska Chapter of the I.M.C. In August Kenai Montessori hosted Tim Seldin, president of the Montessori Foundation, Chair of the International Montessori Council and author of several Montessori publications. Twenty-one teachers attended the training seminar as well as a public presentation at the Challenger Learning Center. Every year some of the staff from Kenai Montessori attends an International Montessori Conference in Clearwater, FL.

Some students that attended Montessori schools that you may be familiar with are, Katherine Graham (owner/editor of the Washington Post), Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (editor, first lady), Sean ‘P. Diddy (rapper), Anne Frank (famous diarist from WWII), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize winner for Literature), Jeff Bezos (founder of, Prince William & Prince Harry (English Royal Family), Julia Child ( famous chef, cooking show host), Melissa Sue and Sarah Gilbert (actresses), Larry Page & Sergey Brin (founders of who credits much of their success from their Montessori education). Those famous people who have chosen Montessori education for their children include, Patty Duke Austin, Cher Bono, Yul Brenner, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Michael Douglas and Yo Yo Ma.

Stopping at a Pre-Elementary Montessori school wasn’t quite enough for the Pugh’s. This year they also offered a Kindergarten class and next year will include first grade. They have also recently established the first Montessori Toddler House in Alaska. This facility is located at 105 Trading Bay. It offers an educational program specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of children between ages of 19 months to 3 years. What’s unique is that this facility will not accept a child younger or older than this age group. This allows for a classroom environment that does not need to be integrated with materials that are not appropriate or are too advanced for this age group.

The teachers are trained specifically for this age group and receive countless hours of both Montessori training as well as Early Childhood Development training. The Kenai Montessori Toddler House is modeled after several similar programs from the lower 48. Kenai Montessori has several tuition assistance options including two scholarships for income qualified families.

To visit Kenai Montessori and the Toddler House, go to

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